On Wednesday, the AJC's Ken Sugiura sat down with Georgia Tech Athletics Director Dan Radakovich, hitting on topics ranging from the college football playoff format, rumors and speculation swirling around ACC schools possibly jumping to the Big 12 and possible ACC expansion. Of note was Radokovich's comment about the ACC's possible response to the new Big 12-SEC bowl alliance.
"Regarding a possible bowl alliance for the ACC champion, Radakovich said that will be a topic of discussion for a conference call of league athletic directors this week. He said that league associate commissioner Michael Kelly has been working on "trying to set something up similar to what you had seen announced last Friday with the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12."
The conference will likely find out you can't put the genie back in the bottle. Good luck trying to fix the public perception that the ACC got squeezed out of a four-team playoff with the Rose Bowl and Rose Bowl lite serving as de facto National semifinals with this announcement.
The reality, however, is that the ACC is exactly where it was before the Big 12-SEC bowl arrangement was ever announced. Still the fifth best college football conference. Still not playing either a Big 12 or SEC team in the Orange Bowl. Not counting last year's matchup between a future Big 12 member (West Virginia) and another future Big 12 member? (Clemson), the ACC has faced either an SEC or a Big 12 program in the Orange Bowl all of one time over the last 10 games. Will we miss that epic 2007 Orange Bowl matchup between Kansas and Virginia Tech? No, no we will not.
Still, it will be interesting to see what the conference comes up with here as a counter to the Rose Bowl and Champions Bowl -- that's not, say, the Little Kids Table Champions Bowl pitting the ACC champ up against the Big East champ.
And while I wouldn't expect an announcement to be made until next month's announcement as to the finalized college football playoff structure, here's some thoughts on possible matchups and destinations. [Assumes certain bowl cities -- Los Angeles, Dallas, New Orleans -- and opponents -- Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC champs, and probably the SEC #2 and Big 12 #12 -- are already off the board.]
1. Highest ranked non-playoff, non-Rose Bowl, non-Champions Bowl, non-ACC team. That's a mouthful and much less effective than saying you are creating a bowl game pitting conference champions. But if some ranking system remains in the four-team playoff world, there are far less attractive options than taking the highest ranked program
a) not playing in the four-team playoff
b) not in the Rose Bowl
c) not in the Champions Bowl
d) not from the ACC
For sake of argument, let's say the four-team playoff includes the three highest ranked conference champs and an at-large. The ACC's top tier bowl would then be free to select the highest ranked non-playoff, non-Rose Bowl (jr.) program. Here's how the last seven Orange Bowls of the post-expansion ACC would have played out:
2011: Clemson vs. Boise State (was West Virginia)
2010: Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State (was Stanford)
2009: Georgia Tech vs. Boise State (was Iowa)
2008: Virginia Tech vs. Utah (was Cincinnati)
2007: Boston College (was Virginia Tech) vs. Kansas (still Kansas)
2006: Wake Forest vs. Louisville (still Louisville)
2005: Florida State vs. Notre Dame (was Penn State)
The ACC's champion bowl gets objectively better in four of those seven years, with the added bonus of BC heading to the ACC's champion bowl in 2007 after Virginia Tech was placed into the four-team playoff. Again, messy, but effective.
2. Notre Dame. A Catch-22 to be sure. Much has been written about the ACC being the fifth wheel after the Champions Bowl was announced, but until Notre Dame trades in football independence for all-sports conference membership, they are a viable college football postseason dancing partner for the ACC. The catch is that the ACC has made it no secret they want the Irish as an all-sports member. Hell, every conference hasn't made that a secret. If the ACC inks a bowl agreement with Notre Dame to send the conference champ up against a Notre Dame team that, say, wins at least nine games, you've just given the Irish a soft landing spot for years in which they don't make a four-team playoff (like, every year).
3. The top ranked non-playoff, non-Champions Bowl SEC team. In the short term, the only conference that will enjoy a symmetry with a 14-team ACC is the SEC. So what if they send two teams to the four-team playoff and a third to the Cotton Bowl v2.0. There will still be no shortage of strong bowl draws in the SEC, especially with Missouri and Texas A&M joining the fold this season.
4. The Big East. But only if we exhaust options one, two and three. At best you draw Boise State or Louisville. At worst, Memphis. Drops mike. Walks away.
1. Anywhere NOT Miami. The Orange Bowl has lust much of its luster over the years due to weak ACC champs and a propensity to draw the short end of the BCS stick with the Big East champ more times than seems fair. It's time for the conference to make a clean break with the city of Miami and whatever they are calling Joe Robbie Stadium these days. Besides, so long as Miami is still a member of the ACC, the conference is already relevant in southern Florida.
2. Atlanta. Where the conference can make in-roads is if they take over control of the city of Atlanta for its own Champions bowl. Though Georgia Tech is located in Atlanta, it's still very much in the heart of SEC territory. The SEC title game is played there as is the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic and Peach Bowl, both of which feature an SEC program more often than not (read: all the time).
3. New York. With the conference's northward expansion, there's no reason why the ACC Champions bowl shouldn't be played at the Giants and Jets new home in the Meadowlands. If the NFL is willing to award New Jersey a Super Bowl that's played in February, there's no reason why you can't have a bowl game at MetLife Stadium on New Year's Day.
1. New Year's Day.
2. New Year's Day.
3. New Year's Day.
This is non-negotiable. ACC Champions Bowl at 1, Rose Bowl at 4, Cotton Bowl v2.0 at 7.